Come for the food, stay for the National Alliance
Scenes from the troubled 2004 International Revisionist Conference
On Saturday morning at 11 a.m., they have gathered on the sidewalk outside Eppie’s Restaurant in Midtown Sacramento. They are the last vestiges of the 2004 International Revisionist Conference, true believers—disbelievers, actually—who have come to take part in what was to have been the largest gathering of Holocaust revisionists on American soil.
Earlier in the week, the revisionists were forced to revise their conference plans, when their original secret location, Sacramento’s Turnverein German-American Cultural Center, canceled their weekend reservation. The center’s management insisted it only realized the nature of the conference—in which participants would insist that German atrocities in World War II were manufactured or exaggerated—after articles appeared in the press, though revisionists maintain the facility really caved in to pressure from groups like the Jewish Defense League (JDL).
Local organizer Walter Mueller [see “History lessens” by Bill Forman, SN&R News, April 15] subsequently announced that the conference would not take place. A former chef, he bemoaned not only the presumed affront to free speech, but also the wasting of barrels of sauerkraut and schnitzel. (The conference’s $35 registration fee was to include three free meals for each day.)
Beaten but unbowed, a splinter faction of the original organizers, guests and participants decided to convene outside Eppie’s to get directions to the new secret location of a considerably less-international conference.
“You don’t have a cell phone you’re going to call the JDL with, do you?” asks Harvey Taylor, only half-joking, as he gives directions to the newly booked La Sierra Community Center in Carmichael. Taylor—an assistant editor for Mueller’s Community News—is carrying on without Mueller, who will have nothing to do with the conference now, decrying its “takeover” by “the white nationalist movement.”
Standing beside Taylor is Jerry Head, a soft-spoken older man who says he traveled alone from Arkansas for the conference. Head, a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union, says he doesn’t think the JDL should go around pressuring venues to close “behind our back.”
Although Mueller says he alerted the sheriff’s office about his belief that violent white supremacists would target the Turnverein (a drive-by of the original facility on Saturday morning does show conspicuous security measures in place), the crowd outside of Eppie’s seems more concerned about whether there’s enough time to grab a quick bite before departure.
And, apparently, there is not. At 11:30, a voice calls out, “Gentlemen, start your engines,” and a crowd of about 60 participants disperses in anticipation of the caravan procession to Carmichael.
Outside the La Sierra Community Center, Edgar J. Steele, an Idaho-based attorney whose Internet site (ConspiracyPenPal.com) boasts his reputation as the “Attorney for the Damned,” dramatically gestures to the building and smiles triumphantly. This, he says, is what it’s all about: community spaces where people can gather to express themselves freely. It’s a public place, he notes proudly, so nobody can kick us out.
At the moment, he admits, that’s not the main problem. “If only we could actually get in there,” he says, as other conference attendees gather outside the locked door. Having come this far, participants are vowing to hold the conference on the lawn, when a shadowy figure is seen inside the building.
“Are you sure it’s not your own reflection?” asks one revisionist as another knocks on the glass door.
Inside, a man hesitates, opens the door and looks out at the growing gathering. “Are you the manager of the facility?” he’s asked.
“No,” he answers, “I’m just here to see the play.”
Gaining entrance, revisionists wander through a facility far less opulent than the Turnverein. The room is dark and barren, though stacks of chairs eventually are located. Down the hall, wayward revisionists exit the adjacent theater, where preschoolers are gathering for a noontime performance of Three Billy Goats Gruff & Other Tales.
“That can’t be it,” says one revisionist to the other.
“It’s very hard to revive a corpse,” says Mark Weber of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), referring to his group’s resurrection of the conference, now finally under way. Acknowledging the political split that’s occurred in the last week, he gives thanks to the entities who stepped in to “save” the conference—the National Alliance draws a round of applause from the gathering of about 150—even if the conference’s original organizer might not have wanted them involved. “Any help from anyone,” says Weber, is welcome.
Weber also pays tribute to Taylor, who, as the only person to have attended all 14 IHR conferences, is now a fitting master of ceremonies.
In his own introductory comments, Taylor talks about what revisionists call “the holohoax.” They had soccer fields, says Taylor of the concentration camps. At Auschwitz I, he adds, there was even a theater and a bordello. Removed from its historical context, Taylor’s rosy description makes the La Sierra Community Center sound comparatively bleak.
The speaker lineup also is not what it once was. Revisionists from as far afield as Poland, South Africa and Australia ended up canceling their trips when news of the Turnverein’s pullout reached them. A token non-revisionist speaker, Barry Chalmers, flew in from Israel; he e-mailed SN&R to say that he was homeless in Sacramento for two days. (We have not heard from him since.)
Still, Taylor, Weber and Steele all speak, as do Paul Fromm from Canada and Lady Michelle Renouf from the United Kingdom. There is much self-congratulation for pulling off a conference against all odds, even without Mueller’s involvement. (“So Walter’s coming this evening, though, isn’t he?” asks one portly, bearded gentleman, who looks crestfallen upon realizing that another Eppie’s, this one just off the freeway’s Madison exit, might be his best bet.)
Sauerkraut and schnitzel, it seems, is a terrible thing to waste. But an e-mail overture may offer hope for the future: “Walter, I understand that food is already prepared and I am asking to come for dinner. Thank you. Sean, Director, Sacramento Jewish Defense League.”